Regular physical activity shown to be an effective treatment in reducing risk of depression

15 November 2019

Depression is a recognized mental health illness which has the potential to affect anyone. In light of recent statistics, it appears to be becoming increasingly common. A staggering 1 in every 10 people have been reported to experience depressive symptoms in their lifetime. The symptoms and effects vary between people, but can involve feelings of a lack of motivation, low self-esteem and a sense of helplessness (among others).

A recent study interestingly looked into the health records of almost 8000 participants in the Partners Healthcare Biobank. The Biobank is a long-term research programme which is designed to help scientists better understand how people’s genes can affect health outcomes. Upon enrolling, participants answered a survey about their lifestyle habits which included their level of activity. Although self-report surveys do have their limitations, it enabled to researchers to adequately assess the impact of activity on depression.

What did the study find?

Over the course of two years, Harvard University researchers cross referenced this information with patients’ health records to monitor those who were diagnosed with depression. In addition to this, participants’ genetic information was used to calculate a score which reflects their inherited risk of depression.

The results, which were published in the journal Depression and Anxiety add to the growing pool of evidence highlighting the power of physical activity to improve health related outcomes. They revealed that people who had a higher genetic risk were 20% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than others. However, if these people partook in regular activity equating to roughly 30 minutes a day, then they could reduce their risk of depression by as much as 17%. Additionally, there were great benefits for those who were already at a lower genetic risk, as they were 38% less likely to feel depressed through taking part in regular activity.

The benefits were similar, irrespective of the type or intensity of the activity carried out.  Running and walking in particular, resulted in risk reductions of 13% and 11% respectively. High intensity activities such as dancing reduced the risk of depression by 16% and low intensity activities reduced risk by 14%. In particular, taking part in activities such as yoga and stretching were reported to reap these benefits. This is especially interesting and provides further evidence that working up a sweat in the gym isn’t the only way to gain health benefits from activity.

As we have seen in the results from this study, regular exercise and activity can be extremely beneficial in risk reduction, but also in the sense of helping to treat depressive symptoms. The NHS currently recommends regular exercise for people who have been diagnosed with mild – moderate depression and GPs are beginning to prescribe physical activity as a treatment for the condition.

It’s important to remember that the results come without saying that any improvement in activity levels is beneficial to our health and a step in the right direction to leading a happier, healthier life.

The KiActiv® Team

Why are we still telling kids to sit down and sit still?

12 November 2019

recent study of 40 pre-school aged children looked to determine whether any health benefits can be attributed to fidgeting. Fidgeting is movement and every movement we make is contributing to our daily physical activity energy expenditure. Energy expenditure is another term for calorie burn, so a higher daily physical activity energy expenditure generally means we can consume more calories through food and drink without creating a calorie surplus and gaining weight as a result. With the childhood obesity crisis high on the national agenda, are we overlooking the simplest of solutions by allowing teachers to continue to convey the ‘sit down and sit still’ rule in the classroom?

Fidgeting is movement and any movement is good!

Movement in any form, whether it be upper body, lower body or full body is good for us. Higher levels of movement and physical activity are associated with numerous health benefits such as reduced risk of all-cause mortality. The trouble is, there seems to be a misguided perception that physical activity must be in the form of structured exercise, such as a P.E class, to carry any benefit to health. This is not true. There are many types, or dimensions, of physical activity that are demonstrably important for health and wellbeing. Of course, an active P.E. class is very important and will benefit health independently, but that is only hitting one or two dimensions of an individual’s overall multidimensional physical activity profile. To get a true sense of how active someone is, we must look at ALL of the movement they are doing throughout the day. Fidgeting is movement, all be it only of a light intensity, but movement nevertheless, therefore it must be considered. The study found that the difference in calorie burn between the high and low fidget groups was roughly 6 kcal per hour. At first glance, it may seem like a small difference, but when you consider the amount of time a child will spend sitting at a desk on a daily basis, it quickly adds up.

How does this relate to the working population?

The ‘sit down and sit still’ message persists into adulthood with many of us desk-bound for much of our working lives.  With much of the focus now on breaking up long periods of sitting with at least light intensity activity, for the millions constrained by the sedentary nature of their job, could the answer be to fidget more whilst sitting at a desk. A long-term cohort study followed 12, 778 women aged between 37 and 78 for an average of 12 years to determine whether fidgety behaviour modified all-cause mortality risk. They found that fidgeting likely reduced the risk of all-cause mortality commonly associated with longer periods of sitting, however did acknowledge that more research was required to validate their findings and identify mechanisms.

So, in the near future, don’t be surprised to find the act of fidgeting transition from being an annoying distraction to a healthy habit both in the classroom and the workplace.

The KiActiv® Team

Are we going through an inactivity epidemic? Recent NHS statistics shed light on the growing burden it’s facing.

8 November 2019

The NHS and the monumental strain it’s put under is a well-covered conundrum, and one which is a hot topic in public health. In light of figures published by the NHS, there have been some alarming statistics which have recently surfaced.

Hospital admissions for heart failure have risen to record levels, as numbers show that more than 86,0001 patients suffered from the condition last year – this is a 33% increase on the 2013/2014 figures. When admitted, patients with heart failure stay in hospital for an average of 10 days, which is double the expected stay for all other diagnoses. This results in not only a huge financial strain, but also adds to the burden on already overloaded health services. The survival rate for the condition is extremely low and actually worse than many cancers, with a third of patients dying within a year of developing the condition.

The condition is often caused by a heart attack and the risk factors are ultimately influenced by lifestyle factors such as diet and activity levels, which are both aspects we can control in our everyday lives. In total, this condition affects approximately 920,0001 people in the UK and due to the constant care required and time spent in hospital, it has become one of the biggest drains on NHS funding.

In addition to this, recent diabetes statistics compound the growing strain on health services. Last year, the NHS reported that there were 1.7 million2 admissions of patients with type 2 diabetes. This equates to approximately 5000 daily appointments, costing a staggering £22 million2 each day. Upon being broken down further, the future isn’t appearing to be very promising either. There were almost 1000 admissions for children/teenagers aged 19 and under, indicating that this problem which used to be seen predominantly in middle aged adults, is now beginning to affect the younger generation.

Due to the constant monitoring of blood sugar levels for those diagnosed with diabetes, regular check-ups are often necessary, with at least 8 appointments each year becoming the norm (providing everything goes to plan). Many people often have far more than this depending on the level of their diabetes control. It has been reported that some patients who had poor blood sugar control were requiring over 200 appointments each year, with some also needing a nurse to be called out to their home daily. In total, it is estimated that there are over 4.72 million adults and children in the UK who are living with diabetes.

These mammoth figures for both of the conditions truly highlight the extent of the growing problems which we are facing and show the need for immediate action.

So, what can I do to reduce my risk of these conditions?

Despite the fact that lifestyle choices can play a huge role in managing these conditions, evidence would suggest that we are actually going through an inactive lifestyle epidemic.

Miracle cures don’t come around very often, so when a treatment is deemed to be almost 100% safe and effective, it is unsurprising that it is viewed with intense scepticism and often raises many eyebrows. What if we were to add to this by telling you that this treatment is also readily available to everyone and comes with no financial cost?  Well, you’d probably laugh…

This treatment comes in the simple form of physical activity. Physical activity has recently been described as a ‘miracle cure’ by the highly regarded Academy of Medical Sciences. The BMJ recently published a review showing a clear dose-response relationship between physical activity and mortality. This basically means that the more active we are, the likelier we are to live a longer and healthier life. It also provides evidence showing that any level of activity is better than none, and the more activity the better!

As outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan for Diabetes, encouraging individuals to better manage their activity is a vital component which will be put under the spotlight to ensure progress is made in helping the nation better manage this condition.

Physical activity is safe, and beneficial for nearly everyone with few if any side effects, unlike those experienced with prescription drugs. The power of physical activity is there for everyone to see, and through our years of R&D we’ve developed a programme which can be prescribed just like a drug to prevent and treat a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart failure. The KiActiv® programmes combine the latest technologies with a multidimensional understanding of physical activity to empower self-management and support self-endorsed lifestyle change. Through encouraging people to take responsibility for their own health and lowering the burden on GPs and hospitals, we can also see a huge impact in cost reduction and in improvement in people’s quality of life.

The KiActiv® Team

Run for your life! Can a weekly jog reduce your risk of early death?

6 November 2019

recent review published in the BMJ and featured on BBC Breakfast looked at the interaction between running and the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer related premature deaths. The authors combined data from fourteen studies totalling 232,149 participants with follow-ups occurring between 5.5 and 35 years. In total, 25, 951 individuals died during the follow-up period. Each of the studies included in the review measured running participation using self-report data, which does have its limitations, however this did enable the researchers to study the optimal ‘dose’ of running required to minimise health risks and reduce the likelihood of early death.

The results

Analysis of the results found running to be associated with a 27%, 30% and 23% risk reduction for all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer related deaths respectively when compared to the non-running groups.  This indicates the positive health benefits associated with going out for a jog, but just how much do we need to do to see these benefits? The smallest doses measured were no longer than 50 minutes in duration, no more than once a week in frequency and completed at a pace no faster than 6 mph in pace. Running participation at doses as low as this were found to have considerable benefit on all-cause mortality risk.

What does this mean for me?

The interesting take-home message from this is that the dose-response relationship we often talk about with regards to the benefits of doing more exercise does not necessarily apply to this argument. In fact, the authors concluded that there was no additional health benefit associated with higher doses of running in this case, which in simple terms means a single session of jogging a week could slash your risk of an early death by up to 30%.

With the current ‘inactivity epidemic’ in the UK, these results add to the growing base of evidence that even a small amount of activity is better than no activity at all. Many individuals are aware of the health benefits associated with physical activity, but point to a lack of time as one of the biggest barriers preventing them from participating. Changing habits can be particularly challenging if you are attempting to make big changes in a short space of time. Many will feel like they need to be exercising on most days to feel any benefit, so rather than doing a little, they may simply not bother at all. Hopefully this research has helped to show that even the smallest of commitments can carry great health benefits, so even a single run a week is well worth it and is a great place to start.

How does this relate to our mission at KiActiv®?

At KiActiv® we recognise that forms of structured activity such as a weekly run play a key part in an individual’s overall physical activity picture. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle and does not account for any of the movement we accumulate through carrying out normal daily tasks. The activity we do in a ‘free-living’ environment can be just as important for health, so optimising this should also be a focus. So, whilst the article is positive in the sense that it makes the benefits of activity seem accessible to more people, we believe we can go further by looking at physical activity as multi-dimensional in nature, accounting for various types of activity and acknowledging their equal importance for health.

The KiActiv® Team

Minimising Sedentary time is vital for good health – even whilst on holiday!

23 October 2019

We are becoming increasingly aware of the risks associated with being sedentary for too long. Not only can being inactive increase our risk of suffering from long-term health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, but it’s also a leading cause of premature death globally.

What we are only just beginning to scratch the surface with, is how shorter periods of inactivity can impact upon our health and well-being

recent study looked at the effect two weeks of physical inactivity had on various markers of cardiovascular and metabolic health. Physically active individuals were recruited to take part in the study and were asked to reduce their daily level of physical activity. This led to an increased daily sedentary time of 1 hour 43 minutes on average. So, is it really possible for someone who leads an otherwise healthy and active lifestyle to still be at a higher risk of developing a long-term health condition simply because of a two-week holiday spent lounging by the poolside?

Using advanced imaging techniques, the researchers were able to determine blood vessel health, which is closely related to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, the results showed that artery function declined during study, suggesting as little as two weeks of reduced activity can detrimentally impact the cardiovascular health, therefore increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease for an otherwise active individual. Measurements of other typical disease risk factors such as liver fat, total body fat and insulin sensitivity also appeared to show that general disease and all-cause mortality risk had increased as a result of the short period of inactivity.

So, what do these results actually mean? Well, the answer is simple, we must look to minimise the amount of time we spend being sedentary on a day to day basis and to do so, physical activity is the key. The part which is often overlooked is that you don’t necessarily need to ‘exercise’ to be physically active. Of course, regular structured exercise is hugely beneficial to our health, but the accumulation of movement obtained through general tasks associated with normal daily life is just as important. From getting out of bed in the morning, to making a cup of tea, to doing the washing up – it all counts! So, whilst it is important to make sure we do at least some form of activity during our holidays, remember that you can make the most of any movement made during routine tasks to break-up periods of inactivity and benefit your health in the long term.

The KiActiv® Team

Outdoor Activity given the green light in optimising mental health benefits

3 September 2019

Mental Health is a very relevant topic and one which is high on the agenda with regard to reducing both the prevalence and the negative impacts of living with poor mental health and wellbeing. The positive effects of exercise and physical activity on mental health are already well documented, however a recent study has shed more light on the role the environment can play in further enhancing these benefits.

A growing pool of evidence suggests that being active outdoors is an effective way to optimise the mental health benefits of physical activity. A recent study published in the journal Mental Health and Prevention examined the relationship between keeping active outdoors compared to indoors and has provided some interesting insights. The study involved a total of 140 participants who reported on their mood, stress and anxiety before and after carrying out physical activity in each environment. They completed a wide range of activities with those outdoors including running, mountain biking or football and those indoors including aqua aerobics, aerobics, swimming, basketball, fencing or volleyball.

The findings from the study showed that all participants experienced improved mental health benefits as a result of partaking in activity, which supports the findings from previous research. However, what’s really interesting is that the greatest improvements were made by individuals who participated in outdoor activities. Mountain Biking reduced stress by 18% which was actually the most out of all activities. However, running outdoors was seen to be the most beneficial all-round activity, as it resulted in improvements in all three states assessed. Mood improved by 27%, stress reduced by 14% and anxiety reduced by 16%. One possible reason behind this is that outdoor environments were perceived as more calming, meaning that outdoor activity which has been dubbed ‘green activity’ can be associated with optimising mental health benefits.

You can reap the benefits of physical activity whether you choose to do it indoors or outdoors, but you may get a bigger boost to your mental health by getting active outside. Ultimately, the greatest benefit will come from the activities you do regularly, so it’s important to choose things you enjoy and make you happy. Whatever activities it may be that you like doing outside, we’re here to tell you that its great for your health! This echoes the core values which we promote at KiActiv®, as by incorporating more personalised physical activity into your daily routine, it will translate into important all-round health benefits.

The KiActiv® Team

Short walks and light moderate activity shown to have positive results in limiting negative impacts associated with diabetes

27 August 2019

Within the UK alone, there are an estimated 4 million people living with diabetes and various knock-on effects associated with the disease, researchers are studying possible ways through which we can reduce the harmful impacts that living with diabetes can cause.

One interesting lifestyle adjustment as researched by the University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia and the University of Hong Kong found that through breaking up your working day with short 3 minute walks over the course of the day, people are able to steadily maintain their blood pressure at lower levels during everyday life.

So how can this help my diabetes?

High blood pressure is just one among other risks which are associated with living with diabetes. Approximately 25% of patients with type 1 diabetes and 80% of patients with type 2 diabetes have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. This can bring various health implications including a heightened risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney malfunction and other health problems.

Through sustaining lower blood pressure, individuals have been shown to experience improved clinical outcomes. Interestingly, the effects from this trial have been likened to the benefits experienced through taking a single blood pressure lowering medicine. Although these factors have not been directly compared and must be taken with a pinch of salt, one can’t ignore the underlying message which simply adds to the growing pool of evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on one’s health and can be effective in maintaining blood pressure at lower levels. It’s also important to bear in mind that these benefits can be reaped by anyone suffering from a high blood pressure and not limited solely to those suffering from diabetes.

Parallels can be drawn with the findings from this study and translated into key messages voiced by KiActiv®. Through incorporating more physical activity into our daily routines, it can aid the treatment and prevention of health diseases and lead to an all-round healthier lifestyle. This can be achieved through small day to day changes which all add up to make an overall difference in our lives. By using KiActiv®, individuals learn to make the most of their movement and are able to remain physically active in a sustainable, user friendly way simply through approaching physical activity in a multidimensional manner.

The KiActiv® Team

Sit less, Move More and more often – the simplest ways to benefit your health

23 August 2019

recent review published in the British Medical Journal has examined the dose-response relationship between physical activity and all-cause mortality. Data extracted from 8 long-term population-based studies involving a total of 36,383 participants conforms to the generally accepted fact that higher physical activity levels are associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality. Although this relationship is relatively well studied, much of the previous research has used self-report measures to quantify physical activity. Unfortunately, this type of data is often subject to over-estimation due to recall and social desirability biases, as well as failing to accurately classify activity intensity.

For the researchers then, it was a question of utilising an accurate body of scientific evidence to emphasise the importance of engaging in physical activity of all intensities. Therefore, only studies which collected movement data from a validated body-worn accelerometer device were included in the review.

The idea that every movement we make can contribute to improved health and well-being challenges the common misconception that physical activity needs to be of a moderate to vigorous intensity to carry any benefit. Many will be familiar with the guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, but what this does not account for is all of the light intensity activity we accumulate by carrying out everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning or gardening.

Light intensity activity is any type of movement which causes you to burn over 1.8 times the calories you would burn at rest. Generally speaking, any moment in which we are not sitting or lying down, and instead moving any part of our body should exceed this threshold. This can otherwise be referred to as non-sedentary time. The researchers found that being sedentary for over 9.5-hrs per day, which equates to roughly 60% of a 16-hr waking day, was linked with an increased risk of premature death. At KiActiv® we are pleased to see the evidence base for wearable physical activity monitors continue to strengthen, particularly as we also encourage individuals to strive for that 40% non-sedentary time per 16-hr waking day in order to feel maximum benefit for their health.

Of course, moderate to vigorous physical activity carries great health benefits, but it is important we look beyond that to get an accurate picture of an individual’s true physical activity level. Measuring physical activity across multiple dimensions rather than viewing it as exercising vs. not exercising represents a great way of capturing every movement. Recognising that individuals may be limited in their capacity to participate in structured exercise helps us understand the importance of improving in other dimensions such as non-sedentary time. It is then simply a case of improving the understanding that any movement is good movement and the more we move throughout the day, the more we will benefit our health!

The KiActiv® Team

Technology and Physical Activity: can it be used to help manage lymphoedema?

21 August 2019

The human lymph system performs the vital function of removing excess fluids and waste products from body cells. Lymphoedema is a condition which occurs when the lymph system is unable to perform its normal draining function, and thus causes a build-up of fluid in bodily tissues, resulting in chronic swelling under the skin. A failing lymph system will also impair normal immune function and heighten the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Lymphoedema therefore is not only an extremely unpleasant condition for the sufferer, but also a potentially dangerous one. Despite this, little research has been conducted in comparison to other conditions of similar population-wide prevalence rates. Much of the historical literature has pointed towards exercise being ‘unsafe’ for lymphoedema sufferers, however a review of recent studies appears to debunk this myth.

Muscular contractions produced by various types of physical activity are the main mechanism by which lymph flows around the body. This can explain why sedentary time and obesity are considered primary risk factors for the condition. This might lead to the conclusion that exercise is necessary to tackle the condition, which to a certain extent is true. However, the swelling and stiffness can make it particularly challenging for sufferers to undertake certain types of physical activity. Therefore, participating in activities which are both comfortable in type and intensity is crucial for the effective management of the condition. This is where the multi-dimensional nature of physical activity becomes relevant.

Fortunately, we are now living in a world in which technology that is capable of recording and summarising physical activity across various domains is more readily available than ever before. Many of the available devices still place a heavy focus on heart rate, suggesting that more intense exercise is necessary to gain health benefits. This ignores the benefits that result from undertaking general daily tasks such as gardening and ironing. The accumulation of activity across these small tasks throughout the day all add up.

At KiActiv, we recognise that physical activity should be considered multi-dimensional. Daily free-living activities represent just one aspect of the multi-dimensional model, which can be split into categories related to the intensity of the activity being undertaken. Due to the nature of the condition, lymphoedema sufferers may still be able to feel the benefits of physical activity by targeting the lower-intensity categories such as non-sedentary time. Personalised feedback also helps patients understand how and where they are achieving exercise targets. This represents a far more realistic and achievable way of incorporating exercise into treatment plans, building the necessary autonomy and competence to help promote sustained behaviour change.

The KiActiv® Team

Physical Activity can increase your lifespan no matter what age and past activity level

5 July 2019

new study from the University of Cambridge has highlighted the benefits of maintaining or increasing activity in later life, and showing that it’s never too late to become more active when it comes to benefiting our health. The study followed 14,599 men and women from Norfolk, aged 40 to 79, for an average of 12.5 years. It assessed their change in activity levels over time, and how this is associated with mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

In 2016 the mortality rate was determined, with 3148 deaths occurring in total, 950 from cardiovascular disease and 1091 from cancer. The study discovered that in middle to older aged adults, there is substantial longevity benefits in becoming more physically active. Notably, this benefit was independent of other risk factors and people gained the benefits of increased physical activity whether they were active at the start of the study or not. This evidences that it really never is too late to take our health into our own hands and feel the benefits of increased physical activity.

This relationship between increased activity and reduction in risk of mortality was also seen in middle to older aged adults with cardiovascular disease or cancer, proving that physical activity is a powerful medicine for disease and can help extend peoples’ lives. At KiActiv®, we recognise the powers of physical activity for preventing and treatment of disease. We understand that physical activity plays a huge role in, not only increasing the quantity of life, but the quality too, and we aim to empower all people to take responsibility for their own health through increased physical activity.

Additionally, the study concluded that even those people who started with medium to high physical activity levels and maintained their activity had a reduced risk of mortality. This signifies that, going forward, preventing a decline in physical activity in mid to later life is a must. At KiActiv® we promote this through the message that every movement matters, shifting the focus from exercise/training to ALL the different types of activity we do as part of our everyday lives.

Maybe we won’t do the same types of activity we did 10 years ago. Perhaps, we won’t do the same types of activity as the person living across the street. But that’s okay! Physical activity has no limits and there is no right or wrong way. The key is to find out what activities count and work for us, whether that’s optimising activities we already enjoy or finding new, enjoyable ones, or both. The possibilities are endless! And the more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to keep it up. This helps ensure our activity levels are maintained or better yet, improved, whatever stage of life we are at, as this study has proven to be essential. Physical activity is already helping people everywhere to live longer, healthier and happier lives, and it can do the same for all of us.

The KiActiv® Team

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